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The Other News From England

Week beginning 30 March 1998.

The Other News is made up as a single document, so that you can scroll your way through it.

Click here for Blackspot on rural issues.





Gabriele Gad





Unions and work


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Last week`s edition.

Index of earlier issues.

For conditions see end of document.


If you haven`t looked at the other News From England before, read this in case it may save you some time.

The Other News consists of a selection of articles on whatever subjects find their way to the top of the pile on the week in which it is written. Whilst some of it is intended to be serious, quite a lot is just a bit of light reading (or heavy, if you are a certain type of person), and intended to keep you amused, and cause people to question some of the assumptions of life. Most of the material here is written by the editor, but no single article necessarily reflects the views of the editor or anyone else who writes here. They only might.


Thames Water - still waiting to see what happens next. Are they really on the fiddle, or will they suddenly realise they have made a mistake and back down? I rather think the former.


MY HOUSE has been bodged up by council builders, and it is not just for aesthetic reasons that I object to the things they have done.

They have messed about with the brickwork and cemented it together with hard cement, filled the floor area of one basement room with concrete, smashed up York stones, taken other York stones away in a skip (presumably to sell) and replaced them with the same size made of concrete, removed antique architectural features in good condition and replaced them with cheap modern junk, fitted a zinc roof where a lead one would be cheaper architecturally correct and far better, removed an ancient iron cistern and replaced it with a cheap plastic thing, rendered walls that didn`t need rendering with concrete, pointed the brickwork with the wrong type of pointing in the wrong type of cement, ripped out restorable wooden features and replaced them with cheap and tacky filmset style approximate copies, heaved pipes out that didn`t need to come out, flung them in a skip and replaced them with others doing the same job but not so well............and on and on.

But whilst I have some chance of getting some financial redress for the enormous damage they have done to my antique building (this was Southwark council purporting to set some standards) the ecological and conservation considerations will not in any way be considered, even though for me these are even more important than the general trespass on and damage to my property.

This article hopes to bring councils to their senses, although frankly I doubt that it will do anything at all.

The first issue they might manage to grasp. It is one of conservation. If you have an antique building then restoration demands that you do as little as possible to it, instead of as much as possible. That ought to be obvious even if only for economic reasons.

The other issues are not quite as obvious.

Concrete is my first area of complaint, but it isn`t that simple.

By filling in the floor of one room with concrete they have caused damp in another, and to fix the damp in the other they have smeared the walls over with more concrete. They have taken down brickwork and relayed the bricks using, in effect, concrete to lay them. They have taken out a yorkstone lintel and replaced it with a piece of concrete cast straight onto the building......and more of the same and similar.

These areas of concrete will crack when the house next subsides (as does happen with 1840`s houses) and have to be removed and replaced. Concrete cannot be unhardened (and even if it could it would take some other chemicals to do it) so it has to be removed and replaced. If I remove it and replace it I am then going to have to go for new materials, which are dug out of the ground from an ever-decreasing resource.

The areas of brickwork will crack when the house subsides, too, and because they have been laid with modern cement the bricks will break up and have to be thrown away instead of being cleaned off and used again. Bricks are made from clay dug out of the ground, and if we can avoid digging this clay we should - for the same ecological reasons we should try not to use mineral oil.

You think that`s the end? It isn`t. Wherever we dump the waste materials from this operation we pollute the ground, and if we don`t pollute the ground it is because we are using the smashed up masonry as hardcore for some other project (which still pollutes the ground, if you think about it). If we are using hardcare, we are covering a piece of ground with it and probably intend to concrete it over............

A much earlier issue covered the subject of how concrete was made, and I am sure everyone knows where wood comes from and that we are cutting it faster than it grows back in.

I will not tell you where my house is, even though it would be obvious if you came down my road, but I will suggest that you go and look at a house belonging to Southwark called Belair. It is in Belair Park in Dulwich, and has degenerated from being an antique house of some charm to being virtually a block of concrete shaped like an antique house with no charm, all under council care. What a wonderful achievement.

I plan to stand for election in the next local council elections, and if elected I might well challenge this idiocy.


Morale is the issue. The reason the most successful classes in our college run and run is that both staff and students in these classes have good morale. It is sometimes difficult to know why, but it is not difficult to know by looking through the door which ones fall into this category.

So this weekend when we had meetings to discuss what could be done to increase the intake of students it was not difficult to find a platform. I argued that good staff morale would give good student morale, and that good staff morale could largely be obtained by making them feel welcome in the college and by accepting that they really had a contribution to make - as opposed to just calling them valued colleagues and hoping they would believe you.

I`m already on the powerless Joint Negotiating Committee, and now there are elections for staff governors. I found out during pay and conditions negotiations that the way to get some idea of college finances (to help negotiations) is to be a governor, so I am standing for election. I have made my fifty word election address very simple: `I have worked for the college since 1981. My main area of interest is staff and student morale. Good morale, it seems to me, is a better way than any other to enrol more students`. Nothing more.

Well, then what? If I get elected will I not be allowed to promote the idea of lunchtime concerts of new music because of rules of self-interest?

Whatever way it comes out, better morale is not to be sniffed at if we can get it.


THERE HAS BEEN NO hoohah about freemasons this week, but the sinister nature of the subject is such that I was still prompted to investigate why the first page disappeared off the site last week (I only found out on Tuesday evening, and had to reinstall it). I don`t know if it was removed again from the site after reinstallation.

Those who read this kind of thing will remember that I reasoned that Lord Bingham must be a freemason to be able to quote the exact number of freemasons in a particular section of the Judicial system - a thing he was quoted as doing.

I wonder if Lord Bingham is the same Bingham who was a friend of my father`s when I was a tiddler? This particular Bingham was (as far as one is able to remember from childhood) a charming and supportive lawyer at a time when my father needed all the help he could get. If it turned out to be the case, then I would be quite confused at finding someone whom I have imagined to be a freemason to also fit this mould.

Gabriele Gad on alternative therapy.


THIS LAWYER MEANS IT for real (I think). Following on from last week`s article, I must tell you I actually met the lawyer I talked about and he really does seem to be completely on top of the case. The cynic in me says it`s because they`re short of work and so they are mopping up all the odds and ends of not very profitable work (the poor and almost poor), or alternatively that the government has hinted that if they wish to continue to be able to do Legal Aid work they will have to show that they can do it consciensiously.

We shall see.

LETSSwing and others.

Gabriele Gad and Hugh Harris play at the Bonnington Cafe most Wednesday evenings - old-fashioned jazz and some poppish modern compositions with classical or jazz influences - you have to hear it to know what I mean. 50`s Beatnik atmosphere, cheap vegetarian food, and sometimes a fire in the hearth. Bonnington Square, London SE8 UK (Vauxhall BR and Underground stn nearby, plus buses).

LETSSwing play Peckham Calypso. By way of experiment I have put a TIFF file containing a fake book version on this site:

Peckham Calypso.

If you are in a LETS somewhere and would like LETSSwing to play to you, please contact

LETSSwing and/or I also do gigs for money - a variety of types of music.


Chords continued - basses.

The bass has a role all it`s own in most pop and jazz. An experienced player can often just listen to the bass to find the whole chord sequence of the piece being played.

But that`s only if the bass plays the right notes. If the bass player plays the wrong notes then the experienced player will either misinterpret the chords and so find it almost impossible to play, or just give up. There are a rare few who can predict what the chords should have been and work in a rather crude way from that point on, but it won`t normally sound right.

The bass player`s main role is to play the root notes of the chords as they occur. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and so experiment at rehearsals will be an important part of the job. Rehearsals will be where you discover what deviatons work by trying them.

The first thing for us, though, is to just play a root note for each chord in time and for the right number of beats. When we can do this, we can then go on with the experimenting bit. First experiments should go along the lines of playing all the notes between one chord and the next and deciding which ones actually sound right, and which we actually want to play. By trying over every change of chord it will soon become apparent what notes are right and what notes just don`t work. When you have done this it is only a question of how much you can remember in one session and how much you can rely on your intuition.

I will be giving out suggestions for how to play each of several pieces in the forthcoming months, and these will have a certain amount of information about interpreting chord sequences. Meanwhile, try the bass on Pavanne (see earlier issues), noting that the seventh does not seem to work if played as a bass note for the fifth bar, but does work if it is used as the last two beats of that bar after playing the root for the first two beats.

It you don`t enjoy Pavanne I`ll be offended.


THE ETHIC OF getting away with what you can and sod everyone else seemed to be very much a characteristic of the previous government and it`s supporters. Whether this is so of the present government or not I do not know.

Some years ago now a lady was heard on the radio telling us how she and a team of people had got a very large sum from the National Lottery (I think it was five hundred million, but I`m not sure) to do something with the huge Battersea Power Station - perhaps something to do with the millenium.

Ever since this time, I have been watching Battersea Power Station as I go past in the train, hoping to see something happening there, but nothing happens. Occasionally a few cars assemble there, and from time to time a commercial vehicle of one sort or another, sometimes something happens with some scaffolding, but essentially nothing of any great significance seems to happen, and I have often wondered how they will get their project together in time for the millenium.

And now, with only two years (less) to go, I believe it is highly likely they won`t. In fact, it now begins to look like they never intended to do anything in the first place. They have presumably had the money, and after a great deal of initial publicity have become just a part of the background whilst funds might be being diverted for other uses.

This raises the obvious question from the public`s point of view: Where has the money gone, who owns it, and why can`t we have it for some useful project like helping the homeless?

It also raises another question, which is how much publicly owned (or donated) funds get quietly spirited away, and to whom do they go?

It`s the sort of thing we Europeans tend to think of as belonging to the `Third World`, but in reality it may well be right on our doorstep.

Unions and work

Went to a meeting between us (the Joint Negotiating Committee) and the Union this Wednesday. The union has been squeezed out of negotiations by `the constitution`, which was written before we ever existed. As the personnel department have held back information to the last moment (or held it back completely and intend never to give it perhaps) and the only person who has any knowledge of what`s going on is the Chief Education Officer it is unlikely that we will be able to make any sensible and reasoned arguments about anything. The few NATFHE members requested that a seat on the board of negotiators should be offered to a NATFHE rep, and I cannot see any reason why we shouldn`t push for that.

I suspect the council want to make the impression of being a good employer whilst not actually having the problems of being one, so they won`t be pleased if we start campaigning for union inclusion.

I will go a stage further than campaigning for a NATFHE rep if I have my way. The elections (at which I polled more votes than anyone) were not in my opinion run fairly, and I would like a re-election so that those who would have stood if they had been around to open their mail at the time of inviting candidates and had the capacity to make an instantaneous decision will have a chance to stand. This will feel less like the principal has managed to gerrymander the elections to get in his yes-folk, and that I was elected by mistake, and more like those who were wanted were elected.

I then probably won`t have this headache of being a negotiator any more.

My breach of contract action is going before Ashford industrial Tribunal on the 29th April if it is not resolved before that date.


Nothing this week. Out of time.

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I want some Locolink stuff. This is the program and disks for getting data off Amstrad PCW`s onto ordinary PC`s.

Cheap laptop for writing the Other News when away from base. Contact

Wanted pc/Acorn monitor, London area.

Who knows where on the Internet I can get a good freeware or shareware score-writing program that will run on my p100 or Acorn 5000? Please contact

For sale or barter

(Will take LETS currencies): Industrial quality roofrack about 7 feet X 3.5 feet, made to measure for ford Sierra estate. I used it for woodwork contracting. It is the best I`ve ever seen. Contact

Same again, about 48" by 96", but lesser quality, for Ford Granada estate or Volvo 7 series - free owing to poor condition - but it works.


LETSSwing (the London all-LETS-members band) need a percussionist. Suit someone who thinks of playing and writing music as a creative, co-operative, gentle activity, who likes out-of-date pop and jazz, and who doesn`t like making a noise. We play so quiet you could have it in your livingroom without bothering the neighbours most of the time, and are looking at the possibilities for involvement in `the community` (playing in hospitals and so on). Contact

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